This GT40 Replica Was Built To Tear The California Desert A New One
Photography by Ted Gushue
While so many of us sit around and talk about all the toys we’re gonna buy or build or mess around with someday, some of us actually wake up early, go to bed late, and get it done. Eric Dean, proprietor of Rimrock Ranch is one of those guys. An ex-creative director, he focuses a lot of his energy into side projects that keep his hands busy. Building an RCR GT40 turned out to be the perfect project to scratch that itch.
Ted Gushue: Walk me through this beast of a GT40 that you’ve built.
Eric Dean: When I moved out to San Francisco, the first year and a half I lived in the city, I didn’t have any of my cars out here. I had one motorcycle that was my only mode of transportation, and I didn’t have any time because I was getting an agency off the ground. That was fine, but I needed to work on something. I like to have a physical project at all times. What I did for work was primarily digital and intangible, so I always wanted to have something to keep my mind and my hands busy that was a creative outlet beyond work.
I went home for a friend’s wedding in September of 2012, I think it was. I was storing my 911 at a friend’s house, and it was really close to Race Car Replicas (RCR) who built the chassis for my GT40. I just popped in there before I drove the car up to Traverse City Michigan, which is about a full day’s trip.
TG: Are they more of a kit manufacturer, or can you drive off the lot in a “brand new” GT40?
ED: No, not necessarily. I think they’ve done that for a few people, and I think they’ve done turn-key-minus projects. RCR is a lot more of a hands-on build than, say, I think a Superformance or a CAV or any of the other options. It required, in my opinion, you as a builder to invest a lot more in terms of time and fabrication, and that was appealing to me. I’d restored at this point three Formula cars, some of which were total basket cases, and restored my ’81 911 SC, and so I thought I was pretty well-equipped and I wanted a challenge.
Since most of my projects were track cars, I wanted to do something that I could eventually put on the street and, then, basically build my dream car.
I didn’t know how long it was going to take, but I was pretty ambitious, and I spent every evening and every weekend that I possibly could working on it. I thought it’d take me a year and a half…it took me about three years and I employed the services of a good friend of mine who’s just a genius engineer and fabricator. His name’s Dave Lyman and whenever I would get in over my head or it felt too daunting, he would help push me over that.
Really, there were a couple of times where I was just like, “Man, I’ve got to step away from this thing for a bit”. It helps when you have a friend that can keep you motivated and keep you accountable. I’d never had that problem before because every other car that I’d ever built had once been together, and this car never had. There were a lot of things that didn’t necessarily fit or hadn’t even been figured out.
TG: Tell me about some of the major decisions you made, the engine and transmission for example.
ED: It was important to me that it looked the par. That it looked authentic. It’s one of the most beautiful cars ever designed. I didn’t want to vary too far away from that. I was already starting with an RCR chassis, which is not at all the same as the original design.
TG: It’s an aluminum monocoque like you said.
ED: The original was steel tube semi-monocoque. Interestingly enough, Eric Broadly from Lola, who designed the GT40, wanted the car to be an all aluminum monocoque, which I think is really interesting because, obviously, that’s a superior race car technology. This car’s got CNC suspension components, so out of the gate isn’t going to be a nut-and-bolt like replica of anything. I wanted it to be a car that performed really well and looked the part.
In my mind, all that modern stuff aside, I was thinking of it in terms of if I was going racing in the mid-’60s, and I was a privateer how would I build that car. Obviously, some of that stuff isn’t available today, or it’s harder to find. I wanted a lot of the stuff to be fairly off-the-shelf. I wanted it to have a really solid power plant. I went with a 302 block, a 331 stroker motor from Keith Craft and it has gobs of power. It did 440 horsepower on the dyno. It’s a Porsche G50 transmission and it just works. That power-to-weight ratio is probably, I’m not a NASCAR guy, but it’s equal to what a NASCAR would be.
TG: How frequently are those two paired up, a stroker and a G50?
ED: I’m not really certain. It’s funny, I don’t spend a lot of time on forums and really know what other folks are doing. I built this car how I wanted to build it. Every time I would go onto a forum I would just fall down a wormhole, and I would second guess everything. I’d rather spend that time in the garage, and so Fran at RCR had mentioned it was a good solid reliable combination. I like the 302. It’s pretty bullet-proof. It’s a good sized package. It doesn’t weigh a lot.
TG: It just mated perfectly with the G50?
ED: Yeah. There’s an adapter plate. You flip the transmission upside down, put it together and it works right away.
TG: Very cool. What’s it like to drive?
ED: It’s fucking scary, in terms of overall acceleration it’s absolutely insane. I can’t drive anywhere near it’s potential, so I probably should have put a milder power plant in it, honestly, for how I drive it. I thought I would do more track time, but because my life is at Rimrock Ranch now I haven’t been able to do nearly as much as I wanted to. I think I would have tamed it down a bit, but it’s so planted that it can handle the power. It’s not squirrelly. I just feel like you can just keep giving it power and it will stick. It’s such a well-balanced car.
I remember the first time I drove it any distance at all, I did the Bohemian Run and Gwen, my girlfriend, was in the seat next to me and we were just tearing up a mountain.
I looked over to her and I was just like, “I built this car. It’s blowing my mind right now”. I was really proud. It just does everything well. It does everything it’s supposed to do, but I still treat it with a tremendous amount of respect because it’s scary-fast.